116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
AMES – It was never said, mainly because it didn't have to be.
Karen and Eric Hoiberg always felt their son's career would end up back where it started, as the leader of Iowa State's basketball program. On Wednesday, Fred Hoiberg's dream became reality.
“We've always known he would love this job,” said Karen, one of the hundreds packed inside the Jacobson Athletic Building for Hoiberg's introduction as ISU's 19
head coach. “It was sort of understood. This is his dream come true. I can't get the smile off my face.”
Mom wasn't alone.
That was the case for most of the players, fans and Hoiberg admirers who came out, still in shock over the speedy hire of Ames' favorite son, nicknamed ‘The Mayor.'
Too bad ISU's ticket office isn't taking orders for another six months.
“I can't even explain to you how excited I am,” Hoiberg said. “It's great to be home.”
The program has fallen on hard times over the last several years.
ISU went 15-17 last year and has endured four straight losing seasons. It has made just one NCAA Tournament appearance (‘05) since 2001.
Hoiberg, who starred at Ames High School and finished his Cyclone career as the third-leading scorer in school history, went to three NCAA tournaments from 1991-95 under coaches Johnny Orr and Tim Floyd.
One of Hoiberg's NBA coaches, Larry Brown, called Hilton Coliseum the toughest arena he'd ever coached in. Brown was at Kansas from 1983-88.
“It's time to bring the magic back,” Hoiberg said. “Fans, I want that atmosphere back and need that atmosphere back.”
Hoiberg has long coveted this job, and Sunday night received a call from Athletic Director Jamie Pollard that led to a few sleepless nights. Coach Greg McDermott was on the verge of taking the vacant job at Creighton, Pollard told Hoiberg.
“I was floored,” he said.
Hoiberg, in his fourth year as an executive with the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves, was hot after the job when McDermott was hired back in 2006. His only coaching experience – not counting his 11-year-old son Jack's youth basketball team – is half a season as a Timberwolves assistant.
“The timing just wasn't right,” said Pollard, who drove to Hoiberg's Chaska, Minn., home Monday afternoon once McDermott's decision to leave ISU was final.
They spent three hours discussing the opening sitting at Hoiberg's kitchen table.
“He told me, ‘Not only do I have interest, I have a plan,'” Pollard said. “I knew when he answered those questions the right way that this was it.”
Part of that plan was to retain sought-after assistant T.J. Otzelberger. Otzelberger will be ISU's associate head coach.
Hoiberg also talked of an up-tempo style with a group of players who will give maximum effort on the floor and in the classroom.
“I promise we are going to defend, we are going to play hard and we are going to give you something to cheer about on a nightly basis,” he said.
News of Hoiberg's hiring Tuesday night spread fast.
“I just screamed,” said Wayne Clinton, the coach at Ames when the Hoiberg-led Little Cyclones won a state title in 1991. “He will do a phenomenal job. He was a coach on the floor. He understood the game.”
Hoiberg's contract is worth $4.5 million over five years. He'll earn $800,000 in season one.
Another Cyclone legend, Jeff Grayer, will have a place on the staff.
Hoiberg is in search of the two more coaches to fill it out. New to the profession, he's looking for men who will bring a wealth of experience to the bench.
“I really need a guy that's been in the head coaching chair. That's what I'll be shooting for,” Hoiberg said. “I'm not sure who yet, but I'll figure it out.”
Hoiberg was at Hilton Coliseum a few times last year during the Big 12 Conference season, surveying talent for the Timberwolves.
He's picked up a few things during campus visits here and elsewhere.
“I go to college games to scout, but I also watch the coaches because I felt someday I would be a coach,” Hoiberg said. “I put all of that in my memory bank and wrote a lot of it down.”
Now one of the most popular players in ISU history gets his shot at becoming one of the most popular coaches.
If Wednesday's reception was any indication, Hoiberg, 37, has a lot of folks in his corner.
“I have no question he'll be successful here,” said longtime Cyclone radio analyst Eric Heft. “There's risk in any hire, but I think the rewards and what our fan base needed Fred delivers in spades.”